Lines up here in an attempt to become only the second horse – after Golden Miller in 1934 – to succeed in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season. He has top weight, a burden few horses have managed to overcome in past renewals of the race. He is not the biggest of horses and can take his time getting over his fences, particularly in the early stages of a race. If he is the one for you he is likely to trade at three times his current price after the first few fences, so would be a far more sensible proposition as an in-running play.
The winner of this race last year; he is another major contender with a welter burden to carry. His experience of the course and distance is a huge advantage but with 11st 9lb to carry he will do well to finish in front again. In his favour is that he has a better chance than most of jumping round and, that being the case, there is every possibility of him finishing in the first few again.
PLANET OF SOUND
He has to be marked up as an interesting outsider at his current price of about 40/1. His staying-on second in the Hennessy Gold Cup reads as well any form on offer in the field and if the ground is genuinely good on the day he will have as much chance as any. If he is for you he needs to be backed with Ladbrokes non-runner no bet as it would be no surprise to see him rerouted to Punchestown in the event of a lot of rain hitting Liverpool over the next few days.
Another major contender who will need good going to be seen at his best. He has every chance of staying the trip and, if his jumping holds up, he could well be thereabouts. I would mark his chances seriously down on soft ground and, although he has a chance on the likely good to soft ground, at his current price of about 12/1 I would prefer to look elsewhere.
His astute trainer has had this race on his mind for a long time now. His win at Cheltenham over four miles suggests the trip will be no problem and, although he has made one or two errors in the past, he is generally a good jumper. He has no experience of the National fences, which has to go down as a negative; however, if he does take to the challenge he has to hold a chance second to none.
WEST END ROCKER
He was unlucky to be brought down at Becher’s in the race last year but more than made amends with an excellent round of jumping when taking the Becher Chase over these fences in early December. He is yet to make a mistake over the Grand National fences, which is massively in his favour. With the recent rain the ground appears to have come for him as well and everything looks to be in place for a very big run. There is not a horse in the field with a better chance and his previous course form is a huge advantage over most of his rivals.
ON HIS OWN
Unsurprisingly he has significantly reduced in price since Ruby Walsh chose to ride him. He jumped really well when winning at Gowran Park last time out and if he can do the same over these stiffer fences he has to be on a rather long-looking shortlist. He has a good chance of staying the trip and one cannot underestimate what an advantage he holds with Ruby Walsh on his back.
He has more than a touch of class about him and is definitely an interesting contender. He won at Haydock despite the softer ground not showing him in his best light. On his penultimate start he finished an honourable third in the Welsh National on heavy going off the same mark as he runs off here. He should be all right at Aintree provided the going is no worse than good to soft and, that being the case, he is another for the short list.
Ran really well in the race last year and looks primed to put in another good effort off a five-pound lower mark. His course experience will stand him in good stead and his win at Down Royal last time out proves his well being; on these better terms, he should be seen as a major player.
STATE OF PLAY
Probably past his best as a 12-year-old but still capable of putting in another good round. He has finished in the first four in each of the last three years which is a quite remarkable achievement, especially for such a fragile horse. He comes here for his first run of the season, as he did a year ago. He could jump round again and finish in the prize money.
The recent rain has certainly been a significant boost to his chances of success. The ground will ideally need to be soft or heavy to show him in his best light; nonetheless, on the likely good to soft ground he could be able to put up a good show and race prominently for a long way before finishing in the first few.
1 WEST END ROCKER
2 CHICAGO GREY